Saturday, December 15, 2012

County Board Meeting December 11, 2012: EDA Budget, Courthouse Security, Board Statement

County Board Chair Janice Hall, along with Commissioners Hakes, Johnson (8:45 a.m.), Martinson, and Sobanja were all present for the December 11 County Board meeting.  Also present were Auditor-Treasurer Braidy Powers and Personnel Director/Board Secretary Janet Simonen.

Opening Statement
Board Chair Jan Hall read a statement on behalf of the County Board:

"The County Board is very aware of a complaint that has been made against our Cook County Attorney.  This complaint is being investigated by the proper authorities in an appropriate manner and no decisions or findings have yet been made.  Pursuant to MN Statues, County Commissioners have very limited authority over the other elected positions of County Attorney, Auditor, Recorder, and Sheriff, but will continue to monitor the situation.  We would like to express our deep concern for all the parties involved, as well as for our community during this difficult time."

Public Comment
Grand Marais resident and parent Jason Zimmer came before the County Board and asked the Board to request for the resignation of Cook County Attorney Tim Scannell.  Commissioner-elect Garry Gamble gave an overview of his understanding of MN Statute 351.14.

Cook County Curling Club
Bill Parish requested the Board grant approval to install 4 cameras and televisions in the Community Center for curling club fans to witness curling activities.  Parish reported that the equipment will be paid for by the Curling Club and removed during the off-season.  The Board approved 4-0 (Johnson absent).

Highway Department
The Board approved a request to purchase a Gang Charger for charging Armer handheld radios at a cost of $645.39 plus shipping.  Highway Department Maintenance Supervisor Russell Klegstad and Highway Engineer David Betts both said the ARMER radios are working extremely well.

The Board approved the purchase of (2) 5.0 horsepower two stage air compressors for the Hovland and Schroeder shops to air tires and run air tools at a cost just under $4,000.  This equipment will be purchased from the Highway Department reserve account.

Information Systems
As requested by the County Board at its November 20, 2012 meeting, County IT Director Danna McKenzie and Mike Hatlestad of WDIO came before the Board with a plan to work with Verizon Wireless in the construction of a new tower, transfer of equipment from the old tower, and demolition of the old tower.  In short, the Board approved the recommended plan to transfer ownership of the existing WDIO tower to the County for the cost of $1.  This will allow the County to collect lease revenues of approximately $2000/month between now and when the tower is demolished.  These revenues will help the County offset the cost of demolishing the tower which is estimated at roughly $30,000.  Verizon will build the new tower to be owned by the County, an investment which will be offset by rent abatement to Verizon.

As recommended by the Land Records Committee, the Board authorized using $6800 of funds from the Land Records Improvement Funds to improve and streamline the assessment of properties and contribute to a more data-driven decision process for the County Assessor's Office.  This request was supported by Danna MacKenzie and Assessor Betty Schultz.  It is important to note that the Lands Records Improvement funds are collected by the Recorder's Office by statute.

Abatement Request
The Board denied a property tax abatement request from Dennis Rysdahl for the AmericInn of Tofte, and determined that the property was taxed correctly.  Recently, the Department of Revenue reviewed the class of the AmericInn and confirmed the commercial class at which it is presently assessed.

Gitchi Gami Trail Project
The Board approved a match of $1667 toward a $10,000 STAR Grant from the MN Lake Superior Coastal Program project to work toward finding an agreement to complete the Gitchi Gami Trail between Two Harbors and Grand Marais.  Partners in this project include MN DOT, the DNR, the Gitchi Gami Trail Association, Lake and Cook Counties.  Duane Lula, of the Arrowhead Regional Development Commission, will be managing the project; Lula was present to make this request and answer questions.

Board Per Diem and Salary/Legal Newspaper
The Board set the 2013 per diems and salary for Cook County Commissioners at no change.  Commissioner Hakes requested that the Board review its policy on paying alternates to committees as a way to reduce costs.  

Thursday, January 3, at 2 pm was set as the deadline for qualified newspapers to submit proof of their qualifications and provide 2013 rates for publishing legal notices.  Contact Braidy Powers for more information.

Economic Development Authority (EDA)
EDA Board Chair Mark Sandbo and Nancy Grabko of Community Funding Solutions (CFS) and EDA Housing Administrator, came before the board to answer questions about the EDA Housing Program budget and performance. The County Board had several contract performance and financial related questions.  CFS has requested a $25,000 increase in pay.

Mark Sandbo and Mike Litfin also answered questions about the EDA Proposed Budget for 2013; two scenarios were offered by the EDA in the amounts of $188,000 (plus $60K bond payment from County) and $150,000 (plus $60K bond payment from County).  The difference between the two proposed budget scenarios is that one includes a full-time EDA Director at $60,000/year salary and the other includes a half-time Director at $30,000/year salary.

The County sets the Levy for the EDA, but the EDA Board is responsible for the budget and spending decisions.

In both 2013 Budget scenarios, the EDA has included:
a)  Additional ~$60,000 payment from the County to share with the City of Grand Marais the Cedar Grove Business Park annual bond payment of ~$120,000.  The County Board passed a resolution for this at its September 11, 2012 Board Meeting.
b)  $25,000 increase in pay for total of $62,000 paid to Community Funding Solutions for managing the EDA Housing Program.

The County Board will hold an additional Budget Meeting on Monday, December 17, from 10 am to Noon to finalize their 2013 Budget including the EDA Budget.

Cook County Local Energy Project (CCLEP)
George Wilkes of CCLEP came before the Board to request $4000 from the County to support a half-time position that pays $21,000 for a CCLEP Coordinator.  The balance of the salary would be shared by the City of Grand Marais ($2K), Lutheran Community Foundation ($2K), and the Lloyd K. Johnson Foundation ($13K).  The Board supported this request unanimously.  CCLEP has been involved in several energy efficiency projects that benefit the public including the 2010 Courthouse HVAC energy efficiency retrofit, the 2010 Grand Marais City building lighting retrofit, and support and advocacy for enhanced energy efficiency in both the Library expansion project and new Cook County Family YMCA design.

Courthouse Space Issues
For several reasons--including improving work efficiency and increased safety--the County Board formed a Space Subcommittee to review county space needs.   The Subcommittee has met with Department Heads to discuss space needs and possible space re-configurations at the Courthouse.  Commissioners Bruce Martinson and Sue Hakes presented the results of that work and the Board recommended moving forward with getting cost estimates for Phase I of the proposed reorganization.  In Phase I, (2) safe interview rooms will be created for use by Human Services and Probation in the area currently used as the Law Library.  Soil and Water will move from second floor to first floor into an area currently used by Planning & Zoning.  The Soil and Water Office on the 2nd floor will be divided to serve as the Law Library and as an office for a Social Worker.  No decisions were made regarding changes to the IT, Recorder, and Assessor Offices but will be reviewed in 2013.

County Attorney Office
The County Board passed a motion authorizing the County to contract for additional attorney services as needed by the County Attorney's Office, County Departments and the Board due to temporary increased workloads, subject to review by County Auditor-Treasurer Braidy Powers and Board Chair Janice Hall.

Courthouse Security
The Board held a closed session to discuss county security issues and review the security recommendations made by the Courthouse Security Committee.  After the closed session, the meeting was re-opened and the Board passed a motion directing the Courthouse Security Committee to move forward on the following recommendations:

a.  Comprehensive Weapons Screening for building users
b.  Security Cameras
c.  Duress Buttons
d.  Enhanced Courtroom Security
e.  Safety Training for County employees
f.  Intercom/P.A. System
g.  Human Services/Probation Interview Room Enhancements

Tom Lake Area Subordinate Governmental Service District (SGSD)
Two property owners in the proposed Tom Lake Area SGSD came before the Board to express concerns about the costs and their opposition to it.

Meeting Minutes
A copy of the Official Meeting Minutes for December 11, 2012 will be made available on the Cook County website or by calling Janet Simonen at 218/387-3602.  A video of this meeting is available at Boreal.TV